For: socialism, a false gospel, and moral confusion
Meet John Doe is a typical, charming, but theologically and politically disgusting movie in which love, suicide, socialism, falsehood and the social gospel mingle seamlessly and inseparably. Gary Cooper plays the fraudulent but nice-guy “John Doe” who sparks a social movement with his speeches and pretended suicide threat, and who winds up having to be talked out of actually jumping off a building by the girl, who assures him that the John Doe sociopolitical movement was in fact Jesus Christ’s reason for dying.
The poor are morally superior to the rich. And the broke are morally superior to the poor. This is one of the socialist messages of Meet John Doe. The penniless are said to be the only people who are free and happy, and money is said to be the thing that starts all of people’s problems. Money, according to Meet John Doe, is the thing that turns nice, loveable people into heels, and it’s bound to do it every time. Money is dangerous. Private property is even more dangerous. Bank accounts are worst of all.
Meet John Doe also claims that institutions are moral agents, responsible to fill needs whenever and for whomever it is demanded. The government is portrayed as responsible for unemployment, and when the newspaper publishes the alleged suicide note from an unemployed man, the mayor is the one who gets hit with the demand to provide a job for this John Doe. The newspaper additionally runs a negative story about the county hospital refusing services to those who can’t afford them. This is the equivalent of condemning the local grocery store for not allowing people within a certain income bracket to come and take food without paying for it. Biblically, it is individuals, not institutions, or even individuals as members of institutions, who are responsible for meeting the needs of the poor.
Yet another socialist message of Meet John Doe is that power corrupts, and if you want to find virtue (“inherent” virtue, at that), you have to go to the laboring class - the proletariat. People in positions of authority are forbidden even to join the John Doe club.
A False Gospel
The real gospel goes like this: God is holy, and humanity is in constant rebellion against the holiness and perfection of God, by nature heading voluntarily for an eternity of God’s just wrath. Instead of damning the entire world in his justice, God took on human flesh in the person of Jesus Christ and lived a sinless life and suffered the infinite wrath of God on the cross to atone for sin and meet God’s requirement of perfection on behalf of sinful humans. Christ rose from the dead and ascended to heaven as Lord and King over all, and anyone who repents and believes in him is saved from God’s wrath and is given eternal life under God’s perfect blessing.
Meet John Doe’s false gospel, however, declares that humanity is on its way to saving not only itself but the whole world with its good behavior. That Jesus was merely a John Doe himself, who lived and died to inspire the rest of humanity to play nice. That believing in Jesus Christ is unnecessary, as long as each person is in the path of neighborliness and common sense.
The John Doe social movement, not faith in Christ, is considered “the one thing capable of saving this cockeyed world,” “the one worthwhile thing that’s come along.” The girl convincingly tells the suicidal main character that Jesus Christ, “the first John Doe,” died “to keep the John Doe ideal alive.” Anyone who opposes the John Doe club is declared to be a “Pontius Pilate.”
The laboring class (regardless of religion) is said to be synonymous with the meek who will inherit the earth.
The main character’s later love interest starts out by committing grand larceny by extortion. She gets away with it, and she’s not sorry for it.
Suicide comes up positively, and even flippantly, several times until the very ending. The whole plot revolves around the non-existent, jobless John Doe, who is supposedly going to commit suicide on Christmas Eve in protest against the state of civilization. When the newspaper reporter who invented the story is asked whether the character is still going to jump off a building after having been offered work, she insists that, not only is he still going to jump, but he’s going to jump “out of principle.” She also states, in print, that she believes that other people should be jumping off the roof. When the main character loses hope in the “John Doe movement”, he considers it good and proper to kill himself, and is only persuaded not to by the assurance that the social movement will keep going.
In the warped plot development of Meet John Doe, the good guys are all convinced that the right thing to do is to keep up the lie about the existence of John Doe, and make it as big as possible. It is the bad guys who want the main character to tell the truth. The terrible downturn comes when the bad guys finally reveal to the world that the Gary Cooper character and all his friends have been deceiving the nation. The written speeches that further the lie are the ones portrayed as having more total truth than any speech revealing the characters’ constant deception.